The problem with only writing about yourself when you are a literary genius from History is that you only know that you are a literary genius from History when you have been dead 200 years. And then it’s a bit late to start writing about yourself.
You may have noticed that I am a feminist of the personal is political kind. If not, you should probably read this post to fill yourself in. While some people say that writing about yourself is indulgent, and should only be done if you are some kind of literary historical genius, I say it is a political act.
I could leave write diaries and accidentally-on-purpose leave them lying around for an intellectually curious niece to find when I’m dead (Oops! You’re just going to have to write a memoir about your crazy feminist Aunt now aren’t you?) but then I wouldn’t get credit for all the awesome things I have to say now. And I like credit. Anyways, wanting to be heard is part of being an artist. A friend of mine, who is a well-known musician, said to me the other day that part of what makes us artists is this burning desire to tell our stories, to be listened to, in whichever medium we work.
I have never really felt heard, but I guess that’s a subject for another piece.
Women’s lives involve a lot of drudgery. As well as being whatever we want to be (bloggers, writers, doctors), we also have to be what we are supposed to be (mothers, housewives, good lovers). Even if we want to be some of the things we are supposed to be, it’s still hard to find time to be them. (Isn’t that sentence really hard to read?)
Because of sexism, women have to work extra hard in order to be seen as successful women. Because of sexism, men just get to be men without any extra effort at all, it would seem. (Or do they? I only half believe this and I think it would be a great subject for an upcoming post. How hard do you have to work to be seen as a ‘real’ man? Quite hard, I guess.) By that, I mean that men don’t have to prove themselves to be good fathers, househusbands or lovers in order to be successful in their career of choice. Men get away with being complete shits in their personal life, while being celebrated as a good writers, doctors, whatever in the public sphere.
I have a Wonder Woman keyring. In some ways I find it empowering to look at (hell yeah I’m Wonder Woman!), in other ways it puts me under a lot of pressure (Oh no, now I have to do EVERYTHING.). It makes me remember that I not only have to be what I want to be – a good writer, artist, friend, lover, feminist, ally, sister – but also what society and my family think I should be – gainfully employed for money (none of this volunteering bullshit), a good daughter, beautiful (read thin), wife, mother, and a whole bunch more. Sometimes I feel like Wonder Woman. Sometimes just thinking about all the things I want to do, plus all the things other people think I should do, makes me want to explode.
And people think women are the weaker sex? We must be superheroes in order to be able to keep all this shit together!
These ideas make me think of the stereotypes we have about men when they’re ill. When my Dad has a cold he stays in bed feeling sorry for himself, stops working so much, and tells everyone he meets just how ill he is (I do this too). When my mother is ill, unless she cannot physically stand up, she will carry on doing the cooking, cleaning, farming, working and looking after my Dad. She also doesn’t complain about it. This isn’t because she wants to, but because she has no choice. She is a woman, and she needs to keep her shit together.
I want to be a writer, filmmaker and photographer. Society (with a capital S) says I have to be a good daughter, career woman, heterosexual etc etc etc. I also have depression. I am pretty sure it is the overwhelming coming-together of all these conflicting demands that has made me ill. I think I have depression because at some point the weight of all the things I should be crushed all the things I want to be under a big heap of sexist concrete. I feel like I am stuck underneath a fucking concrete mountain and now I have to dig my way out of it using a tattered self-help book and a spoon (obscure T-Shirt potential: I got buried under a big pile of concrete and all I got was this lousy spoon.). (You know when you can’t tell whether a metaphor is genius or incomprehensibly obscure to anyone who doesn’t live in your mind? That was one of them. )
Talk about being a superwoman. I am supposed to be a successful blogger, put on a party and make a zine while ignoring the fact that I have depression? I don’t think so!
I think that ignoring the superhuman effort it takes for someone with depression to even get dressed in the mornings is part of the evil ideology that makes people like me depressed in the first place. If I weren’t a woman, if I weren’t gay, I honestly don’t think I would have had to go through all the bullshit in my life that made me this ill. And not talking about depression only contributes to the conspiracy of silence that keeps people like me ashamed and putting ourselves under a lot of self-hating pressure:
‘I need to get better now! I need to get better now!’ Why? To please myself or someone else? As a woman, I am always spending my energy trying to please other people. Even when this effort exhausts me.
It is a fact that LGBT people have more mental health problems than straight people. It is a fact that people of colour are more likely to die from stress-related illnesses than white people. Racism literally kills. And I am sure it’s a fact, even though I can’t find a link for it, that sexism kills women too. When I think of brilliant female writers, I think of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. It’s pretty sad that, as a female writer, some of my strongest role models are women who are equally famous for having committed suicide.
That’s why I am writing this now. I’m not going to wait until I’m dead, especially as I am hoping that time will be way in the future.
So, when I sit here in my bedroom, beating myself up for not having written anything for my blog, maybe I should remember; I’m not Wonder Woman. And maybe it’s even feminist not to be. I shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone – Laura the blogger, Laura the good daughter, Laura the good friend. Maybe I should just give myself a break.